GENEVA – The World Jewish Congress, together with UNESCO and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, held a high-level workshop on Monday and Tuesday in Geneva on the role of education in combatting antisemitism. The event follows two previous workshops for policymakers held in Warsaw and Paris in May and July, respectively.
Designed for education policy-makers, notably those responsible for curriculum development and teacher-training programs, the workshop examined various policy measures government officials can take within the education sector to foster tolerance and dialogue as well as build resilience among young people towards all forms of exclusionary rhetoric and group-based discrimination and violence, including antisemitism. A specific session was also dedicated to the development of follow-up activities on national and regional level.
Speakers at the workshop included UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief Ahmed Shaheed, UNESCO Programme Specialist Karel Fracapane, and WJC Associate Executive Vice President and General Counsel Menachem Z. Rosensaft, among others.
“The World Jewish Congress is wholly committed to strengthening a cross-national understanding of the importance of education in combating antisemitism, and to underscoring the need for continuous training, action and policy improvements across the board in this field,” Rosensaft said. “We are deeply grateful to our UNESCO and our other partners in these endeavors and look forward to seeing the positive results of these mutual efforts.”
The workshop also included a public event held at the University of Geneva’s Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies which included a panel discussion featuring Shaheed, Deputy High Commissioner for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore, and President of Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities and World Jewish Congress Vice President Herbert Winter.
“An important thing to recognize is that antisemitism is not only an issue for Jews,” UN Rapporteur Shaheed emphasized in his remarks. “Antisemitism is toxic to democracy and a threat to all societies everywhere where this affront goes unchallenged. It is a symptom of a deep dysfunction in our societies. And I am sure we all know antisemitic attitudes exist even in countries where there are no Jews.”
Adding to this sentiment, Swiss community president Winter emphasized that “Dialogue is the key for mutual understanding. The more we dialogue with each other, the more we get to know and understand each other, the more we respect each other.”
The events in Geneva were part of an ongoing initiative by the World Jewish Congress and UNESCO to combat antisemitism through education. The two organizations have also partnered to create aboutholocaust.org, an interactive online tool geared toward countering messages of Holocaust denial and distortion circulating on the internet and social media and providing students and members of the general public with key facts and basic information.